Civility in Public Life: Collegiality Really Matters Says Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg


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Remarkable Friendship Of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg And The Late Antonin Scalia Inspires 2017 Allegheny College Prize For Civility In Public Life

MEADVILLE, PA (April 7, 2017) – One of the nation’s oldest liberal arts colleges will honor the remarkable friendship of two U.S. Supreme Court Justices with the sixth annual Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life. Allegheny College President James H. Mullen, Jr. will award the 2017 prize to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and posthumously to Justice Antonin Scalia during a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., at 2 p.m. Monday, April 10. Justice Ginsburg and the family of Justice Scalia will be in attendance and will offer remarks during the ceremony.

“This award is particularly timely because we are in a worrisome age in American political discourse,” said Mullen. “We are in an era when one of the most positive and powerful traditions of American democracy – the tradition of friendship between ideological rivals – is imperiled. And one of the most ominous threats for democracy – the systematic demonization of adversaries – is on the rise.

“That is why the 2017 Prize will honor the remarkable friendship of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. Their disagreements on a number of the key issues of our time were acute, representing opposing interpretations of the Constitution. Yet they forged a friendship grounded in mutual respect for the intellectual integrity and love of country that each brought to service on the Court. In challenging each other’s opinions, they made each other better justices and through the friendship that grew between them and their families, their lives were enriched both personally and professionally. And, perhaps most importantly, through their friendship, they made the Court and our democracy stronger.

“Theirs is a powerful example for our civic leaders – an example we need now more than ever and an example our leaders should emulate in carrying out the nation’s business. This is a moment when the Justices’ message, and the message of the Prize, needs to be heard.”

A September 2016 Zogby Survey on Civility in U.S. Politics commissioned by Allegheny College revealed a chilling decline in such friendships. The percentage of voters who believe elected officials should pursue personal friendships with members of other political parties dropped from 85 percent in 2010 to just 56 percent in 2016.

Accepting the Civility Prize on behalf of Justice Scalia will be his wife, Maureen, and son, Gene Scalia. Also attending will be Governor Tom Ridge, a longtime advisor to Allegheny College on the Prize and a champion of civility.

The Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life was created in 2011 to annually recognize two public figures, one liberal and one conservative, who argue passionately but with civility for their beliefs.

Previous winners include:

  • The inaugural award was bestowed at the National Press Club in 2012 to political journalists David Brooks and Mark Shields, in recognition of their longstanding record of civil commentary.
  • In 2013, the College awarded the Prize to Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) and Lindsey Graham (R)for their efforts to exemplify civility while leading debate in some of the most contentious issues of that time.
  • The “Women of the Senate” were honored in 2014 for banding together to help end a government shutdown and creating a more civil climate in Washington, D.C.
  • In 2015, in recognition of Allegheny’s bicentennial celebration, noted historian Douglas Brinkley helped select the recipients, former Montgomery (AL) Police Chief Kevin Murphy and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA). Murphy took off his badge and gave it to Lewis as an act of contrition for the police department’s treatment of Lewis in 1961.
  • In 2016, the Prize went to Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John McCain, in recognition of powerful moments of civility during modern presidential campaigns.